I love brew, man

It’s summer, time to drink some local beer

Inside Great Basin Brewery's new location on South Virginia Street.

Inside Great Basin Brewery's new location on South Virginia Street.

Photo By Audrey Love

In addition to its refreshing and relaxing properties, beer is safer to drink than water in some places. Brewers liken the process of beer making to bread making. It’s an exact science in some ways, but there’s a lot of room for creativity. Like bread, beer contains yeast, and it’s a perishable, food product. If you’ve ever wondered why imported beer doesn’t taste quite the same as it did in a German beer hall, it’s because beer is not a great traveler. The best way to enjoy beer is when it’s fresh. Some local homebrewers and professional brewmasters willingly share some of their latest innovations and intricacies of the trade.

Home is where the beer is

Zymurgy is a Greek word that means yeast working. In modern times, it means the art of beermaking. While its various methods can take a lifetime to learn, the novice brewer can make beer at home for as little as $100 for the basic tools and ingredients. Hops, yeast, grains, kegs, tanks and bottles are a few of the things that will help you get started. Like any hobby, you can upgrade equipment and production as your skill increases, but the initial investment is minimal, and the return is the satisfaction of brewing a beer fit to your taste. Most people who brew their own beer simply drink their product, share it with family and friends, and give it as a gift.

Many professional brewers start off as homebrewers, and their passion for creating high quality beer evolves into a full-fledged operation. Such is the case with the owner of Reno Homebrewer, Rob Bates. He got his start when his wife got him a homebrewing kit for Christmas, a not uncommon origin story. Less common was shortly after that, he quit his job and by the time he moved to Reno in 1986, he had turned his passion for good, artisan beer into a business.

“What I do is train people to make beer,” he says.

While he attends to a customer, Bates asks his friend Jon Anderson to give a tour of the store and explain the components of beer making. Anderson is wearing a “beeriodic table” shirt, and it’s fitting. The scientist and beer aficionado has been brewing his own beer for over two decades.

Shop owner Rob Bates stands in front of the great wall of grain at the Reno Homebrewer store off Dickerson Road.

Photo By Audrey Love

“The hardest part of brewing beer,” he says, “is waiting for it to mature before you drink it.”

Reno Homebrewer, 2335 Dickerson Road, bears a sign with the slogan “no crap on tap.” Most likely there will be a good-natured group of people, some of them members of the Washoe Zephyr Zymurgists homebrew club, sitting on the front porch under a cooling mist of water, drinking an assortment of beer. Inside the shop, you’ll find every ingredient and tool that you need to produce your own beer, plus eggs, honey and other natural products from local vendors. Reno Homebrewer is a great place to go to escape the heat of a summer afternoon—and to learn all about beer.

Get thee to a brewery

Buckbean Brewery is spotlessly clean, comfortable and big. The name of the company comes from a flower that grows near Lake Tahoe, which has been used in the past to make beer. The owners, Doug Booth and Dan Kahn, take a very hands-on approach to their business. Kahn is the brewmaster, and Booth oversees the shop. The largest producing microbrewery in the state of Nevada, Buckbean also sells its beer in California and Oregon, and as far away as England.

Before you visit, look at a map or call for directions because finding 1155 S. Rock Blvd., can be an adventure. Once you find it, you can sit in the tasting room and sample one of the six seasonal and three year-round beers Buckbean Brewery produces. Every third Wednesday of the month, customers can enjoy “Wet your Whistle Wednesdays” where growlers of beer are half off: $3.75 instead of $7.50. Both owners love all of their beers, but they are particularly proud of their Orange Blossom brew.

Silver Peak Brewery calls itself “the modern version of a traditional brewpub.” A brewpub is a place that makes its own beer and also serves food. Silver Peak Restaurant and brewery has been open since 1991. The original Silver Peak, 121 Wonder St., has the brewery and restaurant, and Silver Peak on the River serves the brewery’s beer in addition to serving food. A third location by the baseball stadium is scheduled to open this Monday, Aug. 2, and it will be called Slice of the Peak. Brewer Brandon Wright has worked at Silver Peak for seven years, and he also started brewing beer at home before turning his passion into a career.

“We’ve been doing a couple of exciting things,” he says. “We’ve gone all the way from classic English varieties to American varieties.

Tom and Bonda Young hold some of their hand-crafted goodness inside the brewing room of Great Basin Brewing Company’s new South Virginia Street location.

Photo By Audrey Love

Silver Peak Brewery produces an estimated 1,700-1,800 barrels of beer a year, which is a lot for a brewpub. Asking a brewer about their favorite beer almost always evokes a perplexed expression, followed by a series of names and explanations. After all, there are so many types of beer with a myriad of subtleties and specialized characteristics. “It really depends on the time of year,” says Wright.

“Brewing is interesting,” says brewmaster Ryan Quinlan. “You can always make better beer, and that’s what we’re trying to do.” The self-taught brewer works at Great Basin Brewing Company

Great Basin, 846 Victorian Ave., offers live music on Fridays and Saturdays, outdoor seating and beer made on site.

Open since 1993, the demand for Great Basin beer has exceeded the supply, so the brewery has opened a second location at 5525 S. Virginia St., behind Macaroni Grill. Bonda Young, who owns Great Basin with her husband, Tom Young, says that the new location will allow them to meet the demand for their beer.

“We want to provide our customers with good beer,” she says. “Now we can give them all the beer that they want!” The menu and style of the place is similar to the original location, although the South Virginia shop has a pizza oven. Expanding a business can be challenging, but the Youngs have years of experience in the industry.

“We know a whole lot more,” she says. Young recommends the Whoop-Ass Whittier, which is brewed in the Belgian white wheat ale style.

While all brewers and beer lovers agree that the ancient beverage is good year round, beer has an elixir-like, refreshing quality during the hottest months. Whether you want to try your hand at homebrewing or simply want to enjoy a fresh, regional beer, you don’t have to travel far to experience the latest drinkable delicacies from local experts who have dedicated their lives to the art of brewing.